No, the Eagles’ losing streak wasn’t broken — but, for the LGBT community, this week was a win.
Philadelphia came in near the very top of the Human Rights Campaign’s first-ever Municipal Equality Index, scoring 109 of a possible 120 points, second only to Seattle’s 111 points. When the scores are more closely examined, however, Philadelphia was the only one of the more-than 130 municipalities included to receive the full 100 points in its regular score, with the additional coming in as bonus points.
How did we get the A grade?
For years, Philadelphia has had LGBT-inclusive laws, including a nondiscrimination measure and domestic-partner recognition. LGBT city employees have access to domestic-partner benefits and equal family leave, and we have an active Human Relations Commission that investigates incidents of discrimination, as well as an LGBT-inclusive antibullying policy to weed out harassment in its earliest years.
Aside from offering a basic LGBT-inclusiveness in its laws, Philadelphia pulled ahead of other cities in the MEI by going the extra step to not just mandate that LGBTs are equal, but also to vigorously promote that idea to the city and beyond. We have an LGBT Police Liaison Committee to offer input and assistance on safety and security issues; we have a mayor and a sea of elected officials who regularly participate in LGBT community events; we have an active Office of LGBT Affairs within the Mayor’s Office, raising the profile of LGBT issues within city government and connecting the community with its leaders.
Our praiseworthy score doesn’t, however, mean that the city has reached its maximum potential for LGBT-friendliness. There are still issues — such as ensuring the city’s health-care program is fully transgender-inclusive and that the city grosses up domestic-partner benefits for tax purposes — that Philadelphia can and should strive for. The MEI is a good opportunity for the city to do some well-deserved back-patting — and then get to work to make sure we stay at the top of the leader board.
That goal is one step closer to fruition with this week’s introduction of Councilman Jim Kenney’s LGBT-reforms bill. Among its provisions, the bill would allow for a first-of-its-kind tax-incentive program for employers who offer domestic-partner plans and a sea of revisions to bring registered life partners on equal footing with married couples. If passed, the bill would not only be a boon for LGBTs but would go one more extra step in branding the city as a leader on LGBT issues — and could help encourage new protections for LGBTs throughout the region or country.
As a final feather in Philly’s cap, local Court of Common Pleas Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro was one of three people nominated to the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania this week by President Obama — and the first lesbian Latina ever nominated to the federal bench. Her nomination and hopeful selection is a testament to Philadelphia’s emerging image as a mecca for LGBT success.